Thursday, January 23, 2014

Requesting a Special Education Evaluation

So you think your child may need special education services.  The first thing you want to do  is carefully read through your state's procedural safeguards.  I have compiled a list of links for each state here: PROCEDURAL SAFEGUARDS.  Your states procedural safeguards  will be a wealth of information, read them, make notes in them, put post its on important pages!  These will explain what it takes to qualify for special education services, the timelines and process involved, and answers to frequently asked questions.  This is the first place to go when you have a question or are unsure about something.  Do not rely on what the school will tell you, even the most good hearted, well meaning school personnel may give you incorrect information.

Once you have read through the Procedural Safeguards you will have a good idea of the different disability categories that a child can qualify in for special education services.  You can read more about the different categories here.  Your child may meet the qualifications of several categories.  The important thing now is to just get an idea of what categories your child would fit so you know what information to gather together to prove your child qualifies.  If you have any medical diagnosis/evaluations, psychiatric diagnosis/evaluations, recommendations from doctors/counselors/therapists, results from previous tutoring or interventions, past years report cards/evaluations/teacher concerns, you will want to gather them together. If you have already compiled your Documentation Binder, then you should have all that information in one place!

If you are at the point where you are thinking of asking for a special education evaluation you have probably already had numerous conversations with the school.  Many parents I know have even discussed wanting an evaluation many times, but never had anything come out of it.  It is vital that your communication with the school be in writing.  If you have a conversation in person or over the phone, follow up with an email detailing your understanding of the conversation and anything that is supposed to happen next. 

When you are ready to make the actual request for an evaluation, you are going to want to write a formal letter and send it to both the classroom teacher and the principal, you may also want to send it to other people within the district you have discussed your child with (Guidance Counselor/Social Worker, Special Education teachers/supervisors, District Administrators, etc).

There are many sample letters on the internet that you can take a look at when formulating your request.  Regardless of which format you use there are several things you want your letter to address.
  • Why are you requesting an evaluation?  (what difficulties is your child having, what diagnosis do they already have)
  • What has been done to intervene?  (In school interventions and out of school interventions tried to help child)
  • An official request for an evaluation
  • Give them a way to contact you and a timeline to get back to you.
  • I recommend sending this letter by Certified Mail or Return Receipt, so that you have proof of the day you sent it and when it was received.
Here is a copy of the letter I used:

October 19, 2012

__________________ School

I am writing to request a multi-factored evaluation (MFE) for my child Matthew (DOB ). I am requesting this evaluation because of Matthew’s difficulty in the school environment and with accessing the school curriculum as well as numerous diagnoses which hinder his learning.  Matthew has been diagnosed with ADHD, Mood/Adjustment Disorder, Reactive Attachment Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Pervasive Developmental Disorder-NOS, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Matthew was adopted through the foster care system in __________ and has been living with our family since ______________.  Given his background, past trauma, and mental health issues participating in his current school setting and accessing the general education curriculum is extremely difficult without additional supports.  As we proceed throughout this school year I would like to ensure that Matthew receives an appropriate education with the accommodations and support he needs in order to be successful and accurately demonstrate his abilities.
We have tried the following to help Matthew:
  1.  Matthew has been enrolled in three different school environments prior to _________, online, public and private, with consistent negative behaviors that hindered his ability to learn across environments.  
  2. At previous schools Matthew was given additional supports outside of the classroom, including adults to escort him out of class and help him get under control, access to a guidance counselor, participation in a social awareness group, one on one testing, and small group learning.
  3. At previous schools Matthew was given interventions within the classroom such as frequent reminders, additional time, retaking assessments, reduced work and priority seating.
  4. Outside of school Matthew participates in weekly counseling sessions and monthly meetings with doctors to address medications.  He has also participated in Speech and Occupational Therapies outside of school.
  5. Matthew underwent a psychiatric hospitalization for a week in ___________ where he received both private and group therapy, art therapy, and individual counseling.
  6. Matthew has been evaluated by a Neurodevelopmental Disorder Clinic and I have participated in their parenting workshop.
  7. Furthermore, I am a licensed Special Education teacher and have spent a significant amount of time tutoring Matthew outside of the school environment.
This letter serves as my request and consent for a multi-factored evaluation of my child. Please provide me the name and telephone number of any person who will be forwarded this letter and who will be coordinating the MFE. You can send me information through Email (_____________) or call me during the day at _______.

Attached you will find copies of relevant evaluations, diagnosis and treatment plans that may help assist you during the evaluation process.  If you need any additional information I would be happy to provide it for you
I look forward to hearing from you within five school days of the date you receive this letter. Thank you for your help.

 I hope this helps as you begin to try and wade through the school system!  If you have any questions feel free to comment or to use the contact form on the right.

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